Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | August 16, 2009

Sermon on Matthew 6:9b

The second sermon in a series on the Lord’s Prayer, following the outline of Luther’s Small Catechism.  Today, The First Petition, “Hallowed be your name.”

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.  Amen.

Hallowed be your name.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

A young boy is getting ready to go out on his first date.  Before the boy leaves to pick up his date, his father pulls him aside.  The son is ready to hear all kinds of warnings and admonishments about his behavior, but all his father says is, “When you’re out tonight, remember whose child you are.”  In other words, “Keep my name holy, son.”

Hallowed be your name. It’s an interesting petition to pray, for as Luther said, God’s name is certainly holy by itself. We don’t make God holy.  We don’t make His name holy.  He and it are holy.  He and it are sanctified and set apart all on their own.  You didn’t make our psalmist today write, He is holy. It wasn’t anything that I did that allowed the Lord to say I am the LORD, that is my name!  I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols! And yet we pray, Hallowed be your name. And you’re forced to add, as Luther did, two simple words, “Hallowed be your name…by us.”  You don’t make God’s name holy, but, you pray to Him that among us it may be held up as such, among us it may be seen as such.  And in case you’re already asking, “But how does it become holy among us?” listen to the answer Luther provided God’s name is kept holy when His Word is taught in its truth and purity, and we as children of God lead holy lives according to it. As Luther says in the Large Catechism, Since we call God our Father in this prayer, it is our duty always to act and behave ourselves as godly children, that He may not receive shame, but honor and praise from us.

Like that father, God says, “Remember whose child you are.”  His.  Him you call, “Father,” as you say every time you speak this prayer called “The Lord’s,”  because Paul is describing every believer when he writes to the Ephesians:  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will….You also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession. Once you were born of earthly parents.  Later you were born, not of natural descent, nor of human decision, or a husband’s will, but born of God. Reborn, actually, by the Spirit, working where and when He pleased, through the washing of rebirth and renewal, not a fleshly birth, but a spiritual birth, a birth by which you call God, ‘Abba,’ Father.

That’s a holy and precious name.  As little as you want to ruin your parents name by your words and actions, so little do you want to ruin our Heavenly Father’s name.  Luther’s word for this was “profane.”  To profane something is to treat it with contempt, to revile it, to abuse it, to put it to vulgar use, to drag it through the mud.  Luther catalogs the ways in which a Christian like you profanes the name of God: God’s name is profaned when people preach, teach, and say in God’s name what is false and misleading. They use His name like an ornament and attract a market for falsehood. That is, indeed, the greatest way to profane and dishonor the divine name.  Furthermore, men, by swearing, cursing, conjuring, and other such actions, grossly abuse the holy name as a cloak for their shame.  In the second place, God’s name is profaned by an openly wicked life and works, when those who are called Christians and God’s people are adulterers, drunkards, misers, enviers, and slanderers. Here again God’s name must come to shame and be profaned because of us.  It is a shame and disgrace for a flesh-and-blood father to have a bad, perverse child that opposes him in words and deeds. Because of that child the father suffers contempt and reproach. In the same way also, it brings dishonor upon God if we are called by His name and have all kinds of goods from Him, yet we teach, speak, and live in any other way than as godly and heavenly children. People would say about us that we must not be God’s children, but the devil’s children. People learn about God by looking at us.  That leads to some painful, but necessary questions.

What do people know about God because of Christians?  They learn that despite God’s desire for oneness, as Jesus prayed today, Christians are anything but, because Christians cannot preach, teach, and hold to the clear Word of God.  There is not one Christian church, but tens of thousands, each one brandishing its own distinctive doctrines.  There are Christian churches who say that those differences between them don’t matter, as long as we agree on the big one – Jesus!  Though, even some of them refuse to accept that Jesus actually, bodily, physically, historically rose from the dead.  Meanwhile, other Christian churches say that Jews, Muslims, and Christians all worship the same god.  Some Christians find Christianity and Buddhism compatible.  Some Christians say Jesus told them to become Muslim.  Some churches find nothing wrong with people divorcing and remarrying.  Some churches are on the front lines of the pro-abortion argument.  Some churches stand tall with the advocates of gay marriage and the homosexual movement.  And this isn’t just other churches. This is among Lutherans and even among us.

What do people know about God because of the Wisconsin Synod, and especially St. Mark?  They learn that despite God saying, Be holy because I the LORD you God am holy, you’re not.  They learn that that list of sins Luther listed and Scripture talks about, are found among you just as much as they are among non-Lutherans and non-Christians.  Is there divorce here?  Is there sex outside of marriage here?  Is here homosexuality here?  Is there adultery here?  Is there profanity here?  Is there theft and love of money here?  Are there lies and gossip here?  Are there folks who refuse to forgive those who sin against them, or to confess their sins to others?  Are there men who refuse to be the spiritual leaders Christ calls them to be?  Are there women who chafe under the roles God’s given them?  What about those among you who are not here today, those whom we call “delinquents?”  What do they know about God because of us?  Do they know about God’s love, care and concern for them from us?  Do they know about God’s anger over their absence?  Or have they been forgotten, truly forgotten, not by God, but by us?  How can someone miss not just a few weeks, but months and even years of church and all you have the strength to do is think about them in passing, or maybe say to someone, “Hey, what ever happened to…?”  Is this keeping God’s name holy?  Is this teaching His Word purely and leading a godly life according to it?

Hallowed be thy name indeed.  And now you must pray it all the more, because with every day you find more and more ways in which you do not keep His name holy.  It seems so hopeless.  You would rather that He just stop relying on you to do so.  But here’s where you take comfort from the fact that God’s Name is holy apart from and outside of you.  And His words and His deeds reveal it.  Yet of all His holy words and deeds, focus your eyes first on just one, because that one most perfectly defines Him as holy, and allows you to utter this prayer.  Hear Psalm 111: Praise the LORD….He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever— holy and awesome is his name. It is this holy act that most perfectly sums up your holy Father.  It is God, revealing Himself as the holy and righteous Jesus, the Lamb who was slain, the Son who remembered the face of His Father, the Son who came to be obedient that we might be declared righteous.  Jesus kept God’s name holy.  Jesus showed us the Father and His love.  Jesus came to us, though we had so profaned and desecrated His Father.  And then Jesus showed us the glory of the Father – at the cross!  He provided redemption for His people.  He remembered whose Son He was.  And in so doing He showed us the mighty King who rules in equity and justice, who became to you a forgiving God for the sake of His dead and resurrected Son.  Because just as the Son remembered the face of His Father, for the sake of the Son, the Father remembers the face of His children.  Though He punished your misdeeds – in Christ – He forgave you.  Paul says it in Romans 3:  God presented [Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

There is your holy Father, sending His only, holy Son, so that you can be holy children, His face to the world.  The LORD who commands you to keep His name holy, to beg Him to be able to do so through Christ, spoke to Ezekiel:  I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes….I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws….[Y]ou will be my people, and I will be your God. He sprinkled you with clean water….remember your Baptism?  He cleanses you from impurity as His Words wash over you and His medicine of immortality, His Holy Supper, purges your body.  You are His people.  He is your God.  Hallowed be your name. May it ever be so among us!  Amen.

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